Chapter One

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Chapter One

May 2012

"Des Bannerman's lawyers are on the phone!" Taylor, my roommate, held the phone out to me so I could read the Caller ID and see their names myself. "Do I need to remind you how much we have riding on this week? We do not need this! Not now!" She punctuated her thoughts by stabbing the air with her index finger.

Trying to remain calm, I decided that answering the phone call from Mead, Jameson, and Kelly was not the best course of action. There was only one thing to do. Call the King of Romantic Comedies himself and ask what was happening.

I tapped my teeth with a freshly manicured fingertip. For the trillionth time I wondered what had been misinterpreted so gigantically.

Heading down the short hallway toward the bathroom, I called over my shoulder, "I'm going to take a shower." A preemptive strike to alleviate my soon-to-be-overwhelming headache.

"What? How can you take a shower?" Taylor squawked as she looked around the apartment wildly. "Shouldn't you finish packing and get the hell out of here?"

"Listen, I'm going to take a shower and think of a way to get ahold of him. Then everything will be fine! Remember, Gemma promised," I said, wanting to allay her fears as well as my own.

It was simple enough, I thought as I washed my hair. The day before, I'd seen Des having lunch at The Volstead, a midtown bar. As I was leaving, there had been no option but to walk past his table, so I'd taken a deep breath and stopped to say hello. We'd exchanged stilted pleasantries and, when the short conversation came to an end, I'd said goodbye and left.

Technically, I did violate the restraining order by coming within five hundred feet of him. Technically, I did violate the restraining order by talking to him. But he hadn't seemed any more frightened or perturbed than the last several times our paths had crossed.

I stood under the hottest water my skin could stand for a full five minutes, the scent of lavender body wash floating in the mist, before I suddenly remembered something Gemma had said that made me regret not answering the phone.

Pulling back the shower curtain and reaching for a towel to wrap around my hair, I called out to Taylor, "Did they call again?"

"No, you still have a chance to get out of here before the police arrive!" she yelled anxiously from the living room.

I muttered to myself, "If I haven't been arrested yet, I doubt today is the day," then rushed through my routine of lotions, potions, spritzes, and sprays.

My earlier bravado had been replaced with total confusion.

While I was rooting around the closet for clothes, Taylor entered the room, emitting an aura of panic. Sitting on the foot of my bed, she patted it. "Charlotte, come sit down. We really need to talk about your situation with Des Bannerman."

With more confidence than I felt, I said, "Hang on a second. I know it's bad timing, and, if your mother finds out, we could both get fired or worse! But listen, while I was in the shower, I remembered something Gemma said when I was in London. I need to get ahold of her. She might know what's going on. But first, I need to get dressed, find her phone number, and then just maybe I'll get to the bottom of all of this so I can get my life back!"

She remained silent throughout my declaration, but her blue eyes expressed all her uncertainty. "Charlotte, you've finally lost it."

Twenty minutes later, and after a thorough search of my briefcase, I found Gemma's business card, sat on the edge of the sofa that dominated our living room, and dialed her number. While listening to the ring of the telephone, I gnawed my knuckle.

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